Sang Seok NA v Schietroma  2019 NY Slip Op 04017  Decided on May 22, 2019  Appellate Division, Second Department is the story of a bus accident, followed by hears of personal injury litigation again followed by years of legal malpractice litigation.  In the end, not much was accomplished.

“In May 2003, the plaintiff commenced a personal injury action against Greyhound Lines, Inc. (hereinafter the Greyhound action). In December 2005, the law firm of Sivin & Miller, LLP (hereinafter S & M), was substituted as counsel for the plaintiff. The Greyhound action was deemed abandoned on May 10, 2007. In January 2008, the law firm of Sapone & Schietroma, P.C., was substituted as counsel for the plaintiff. In December 2008, the defendant Paul H. Schietroma and his law firm, the defendant Paul H. Schietroma, P.C. (hereinafter together the Schietroma defendants), were substituted as counsel for the plaintiff.

In March 2010, the Schietroma defendants filed a motion on the plaintiff’s behalf to restore the Greyhound action to the trial calendar, which was denied. The plaintiff appealed, and this Court affirmed (see Sang Seok Na v Greyhound Lines, Inc., 88 AD3d 980). In June 2012, the plaintiff commenced an action (hereinafter the first legal malpractice action) against S & M, the Schietroma defendants, and Sapone & Schietroma, P.C., alleging, inter alia, that the defendants in that action committed legal malpractice by failing to timely move to restore the Greyhound action to the trial calendar. In an order dated June 30, 2014, the Supreme Court granted that branch of S & M’s motion which was for summary judgment dismissing the complaint insofar as asserted against it as time-barred. In an order dated September 17, 2015, the court granted the motion of the Schietroma defendants and Sapone & Schietroma, P.C., for summary judgment dismissing the complaint insofar as asserted against them on the ground that the plaintiff failed to raise a triable issue of fact in opposition to their prima facie showing of entitlement to judgment as a matter of law by demonstrating that their alleged negligence did not proximately cause the plaintiff’s damages. The plaintiff appealed, and this Court affirmed, concluding that the Schietroma defendants and Sapone & Schietroma, P.C., “met their burden by establishing, prima facie, that their alleged negligence did not proximately cause the plaintiff’s damages by showing that the plaintiff would not have succeeded on the merits of the underlying [Greyhound] action,” and, in opposition, the plaintiff failed to raise a triable issue of fact (Sang Seok NA v Schietroma, 163 AD3d 597, 599).”

“Here, the Schietroma defendants established their entitlement to summary judgment dismissing the complaint on the ground that this action was barred by the doctrine of collateral estoppel (see Karimian v Time Equities, Inc., 164 AD3d 486, 489). “The doctrine of collateral estoppel, a narrower species of res judicata, precludes a party from relitigating in a subsequent action or proceeding an issue clearly raised in a prior action or proceeding and decided against that party or those in privity, whether or not the tribunals or causes of action are the same” (Ryan v New York Tel. Co., 62 NY2d 494, 500). The doctrine of collateral estoppel applies when: “(1) the issues in both proceedings are identical, (2) the issue in the prior proceeding was actually litigated and decided, (3) there was a full and fair opportunity to litigate in the prior proceeding, and (4) the issue previously litigated was necessary to support a valid and final judgment on the merits” (Conason v Megan Holding, LLC, 25 NY3d 1, 17 [internal quotation marks omitted]).

In order for the plaintiff to recover damages for legal malpractice against the Schietroma defendants based on their alleged failure to advise him of a potential legal malpractice claim against S & M, the plaintiff must prove that he would have prevailed in a legal malpractice action against S & M, but for the Schietroma defendants’ negligence. In order for the plaintiff to prevail in a legal malpractice action against S & M, the plaintiff must prove that he would have prevailed in the Greyhound action, but for S & M’s negligence.

The issue of whether the plaintiff would have succeeded on the merits in the Greyhound action was raised, necessarily decided, and material in the first legal malpractice action, and the plaintiff had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue in that action (see Sang Seok NA v Schietroma, 163 AD3d 597). Thus, the Schietroma defendants established, as a matter of law, that their alleged negligence did not proximately cause the plaintiff’s damages by showing that the plaintiff would not have prevailed in a legal malpractice action against S & M, and that they were entitled to summary judgment dismissing the complaint based on the doctrine of collateral estoppel (see generally Lamberti v Plaza Equities, LLC, 161 AD3d 841, 841-842; Matter of Trump Vil. Apts. One Owner v New York State Div. of Hous. & Community Renewal, 143 AD3d 996). Accordingly, we agree with the Supreme Court’s determination to grant the Schietroma defendants’ motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint.”

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Andrew Lavoott Bluestone

Andrew Lavoott Bluestone has been an attorney for 40 years, with a career that spans criminal prosecution, civil litigation and appellate litigation. Mr. Bluestone became an Assistant District Attorney in Kings County in 1978, entered private practice in 1984 and in 1989 opened his private law office and took his first legal malpractice case.

Since 1989, Bluestone has become a leader in the New York Plaintiff’s Legal Malpractice bar, handling a wide array of plaintiff’s legal malpractice cases arising from catastrophic personal injury, contracts, patents, commercial litigation, securities, matrimonial and custody issues, medical malpractice, insurance, product liability, real estate, landlord-tenant, foreclosures and has defended attorneys in a limited number of legal malpractice cases.

 

Bluestone also took an academic role in field, publishing the New York Attorney Malpractice Report from 2002-2004.  He started the “New York Attorney Malpractice Blog” in 2004, where he has published more than 4500 entries.

Mr. Bluestone has written 38 scholarly peer-reviewed articles concerning legal malpractice, many in the Outside Counsel column of the New York Law Journal. He has appeared as an Expert witness in multiple legal malpractice litigations.

Mr. Bluestone is an adjunct professor of law at St. John’s University College of Law, teaching Legal Malpractice.  Mr. Bluestone has argued legal malpractice cases in the Second Circuit, in the New York State Court of Appeals, each of the four New York Appellate Divisions, in all four of  the U.S. District Courts of New York and in Supreme Courts all over the state.  He has also been admitted pro haec vice in the states of Connecticut, New Jersey and Florida and was formally admitted to the US District Court of Connecticut and to its Bankruptcy Court all for legal malpractice matters. He has been retained by U.S. Trustees in legal malpractice cases from Bankruptcy Courts, and has represented municipalities, insurance companies, hedge funds, communications companies and international manufacturing firms. Mr. Bluestone regularly lectures in CLEs on legal malpractice.

Based upon his professional experience Bluestone was named a Diplomate and was Board Certified by the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys in 2008 in Legal Malpractice. He remains Board Certified.  He was admitted to The Best Lawyers in America from 2012-2019.  He has been featured in Who’s Who in Law since 1993.

In the last years, Mr. Bluestone has been featured for two particularly noteworthy legal malpractice cases.  The first was a settlement of an $11.9 million dollar default legal malpractice case of Yeo v. Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman which was reported in the NYLJ on August 15, 2016. Most recently, Mr. Bluestone obtained a rare plaintiff’s verdict in a legal malpractice case on behalf of the City of White Plains v. Joseph Maria, reported in the NYLJ on February 14, 2017. It was the sole legal malpractice jury verdict in the State of New York for 2017.

Bluestone has been at the forefront of the development of legal malpractice principles and has contributed case law decisions, writing and lecturing which have been recognized by his peers.  He is regularly mentioned in academic writing, and his past cases are often cited in current legal malpractice decisions. He is recognized for his ample writings on Judiciary Law § 487, a 850 year old statute deriving from England which relates to attorney deceit.